Magneto-optic detection limits for semiconductor spintronics

Abstract : This work explores the use of the magneto-optical Kerr effect to study conduction electron spin dynamics in non-magnetic semiconductors when pumped with circularly polarized photons. Typically, non-equilibrium, optically-induced magnetic moments in non-magnetic semiconductors are orders of magnitude smaller than those of magnetized materials, including both magnetic and non-magnetic materials in an external magnetic field. The magneto-optical Kerr effect in principal offers sufficient sensitivity to detect such small magnetic moment via a measurement of the Faraday rotation angle of a probe beam in the photon shot noise limit. Three detection configurations have been experimentally compared: partially crossed polarizers, a Sagnac interferometer and an optical bridge. The Sagnac interferometer is shown to be functionally equivalent to partially crossed polarizers, although its sensitivity is compromised by lost photons at each of the obligatory beam splitters present in such a geometry. On the other hand, it has previously been shown that Sagnac interferometers can distinguish between so-called reciprocal and non-reciprocal rotations, and this thesis proposes novel Sagnac geometries to distinguish rotations according to their time and parity symmetries. The optical bridge technique allows for a photon-shot noise limited measurement of the Faraday rotation angle, even with large photon intensities on the detectors, thereby yielding the best possible figure-of-merit. In demonstrations on magnetic materials, a noise floor of a few nrad//√Hz was measured for a probe power of 10 mW. A series of room-temperature, pump-probe Faraday rotation measurements is performed on optically pumped GaAs to compare and contrast this method with standard polarized photo-luminescence techniques. The largest signals are found when the locally probed moment is maximized by strongly focusing the pump and probe beams, and by choosing a probe wavelength tuned to an optical resonance in the electronic structure. Measurements in transverse magnetic field show a Hanle field of 0.43 T, from which the spin lifetime of 88 ps is deduced.
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Indira Zhaksylykova. Magneto-optic detection limits for semiconductor spintronics. Materials Science [cond-mat.mtrl-sci]. Université Paris-Saclay, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018SACLX099⟩. ⟨tel-02090039⟩

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